Late home bed time disaster... Whats the solution?
Following my own advice for a late bed time
"Auckland Baby Sleep Consultant Cara talks us through her own bed time disaster and the moment she realised she was making the situation worse not better!"
A few months ago, I had one of those moments of total clarity. What I was doing wasn't working, so I did what I tell my clients to do. Take a step back and re-evaluate - what are you doing and why do you think it's not working?
Our 15 month old daughter is an absolute delight. She is just so happy ALL the time! When she's not, you know there's something wrong. Ever since we went through sleep training with her, post the 4 month sleep regression, she has slept like a dream. Her bedtime is like clockwork, and just about anyone can put her into bed if they follow the ritual we set out for her all those months ago. She goes down, thumb in the mouth and mumbles her way into oblivion. If she cries, there's a reason - usually her leg has poked through the car seat strap hole in her sleep sack.
On this particular night, I was 45 minutes late getting her into bed - she had been out with her Nana for the afternoon and returned a bit later than expected, so everything was a bit rushed - dinner, bath, bottle, bed. I put her down, and she cried.
My husband was at work, so it was just me. I couldn't see on the monitor if her leg was out, so I went in to make sure. No, both legs were safely contained inside the sleeping bag. Maybe she had a burp trapped (she has been able to sort out her own wind since she was 7 months old...) I picked her up and tried to burp her, no success. She stopped crying though, so I put her down again. Immediate crying. Maybe was teething? She had been super dribbly, so thought it might be a Pamol night.
15 minutes later, enjoying a somewhat rare cuddle with my almost asleep baby (these are very limited now she's on the move) I'd given the Pamol a fair chance to kick in, I decided to put her back in her cot. Immediate crying. What on earth was going on?! She NEVER cries!
Now I'm thinking its separation anxiety - it kicks in about this age, right? So I left her in her cot, sat on the floor next to her, and waited. She stopped crying, sat up and started babbling away to me. Right, that must be it. She just needs me in the room, I can do that.
20 minutes later, she was still awake. (I'm a sleep consultant, I should be able to nail this....)
Trying to stand up, babbling turned to a full noise one sided conversation. OK, now I'm overstimulating her by sitting right here, I'll switch to lying on the floor slightly away from her cot, and pretend to be asleep. This kind of worked, at least she stopped trying to pull my hair and lick my ear through the bars of the cot. Only now she's lying down, chatting away to herself, but sitting up every couple of minutes to check I'm still there. 10 minutes pass, and she's STILL NOT ASLEEP! Then she starts crying, I'm right there, she can see me. I estimate it to be about 2 hours past her usual 6.30pm bedtime, and I'm starting to stress.
Here I was, lying on the floor of my daughter's bedroom, when the moment of clarity hit me.
I was the problem.
She was overtired when I put her down the first time. She hadn't slept her full 2 hours at lunch, but I'd figured she was good to go when she woke after about an hour 20 minutes. This, coupled with her later than usual bedtime, meant she wasn't in her sweet spot for falling asleep.
Had I just left her the first time for 10 minutes, she most likely would have drifted off after a few minutes of crying. But I interfered. In 5 different ways. Now I had an overtired, wired baby and all I was doing was stimulating her further!
I gave her a kiss, told her I loved her, and walked out of the room, turning up the volume of her white noise on my way out.
She continued crying, and I felt like a terrible mum. I was the problem, and I was leaving her to it. She cried for several minutes, then spotted her Golly Dolly, held its arm with one hand, thumb in the mouth with the other hand and legs flapping. Watching her on the monitor, she was restless - rolling around, flinging her Golly from one side of the cot to the other, grizzling and occasionally crying for a few seconds halfheartedly.
I recognised these as protest cries, she was frustrated that she couldn't get to sleep. She sat up, sucking her thumb, mumbling away. At 9.45pm, she was finally asleep. Folded in half, thumb in mouth. After what seemed like a lifetime, she was in a deep sleep, so I went in, unfolded her and my heart melted looking at my sleeping beauty.
I totally understand the stress parents feel when their baby won't go to sleep. It's awful and you feel so helpless. The best thing I did that night was just to leave her to it. She knows how to fall asleep unassisted, so it's what I should have done right at the beginning of the night. I would have saved myself a whole lot of stress, and her, several hours of sleep!
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